Mission and History

The NCSE Mission

The NCSE mission is to improve the scientific basis of environmental policy- and decision-making. NCSE specializes in programs that foster collaboration between the diverse institutions and individuals creating and using environmental knowledge including research, education, environmental, and business organizations. NCSE works collectively with its community and engages scientists, educators, policymakers, business leaders, and officials at all levels of government to strengthen the role and increase the use of science in decision-making.


The History of NCSE

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) was founded in 1990 as the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE). Its mission was "to improve the scientific basis of environmental decision-making by bringing about the establishment of the National Institute for the Environment (NIE) and supporting the successful implementation of its principles and programs." The National Institute for the Environment would support interdisciplinary research, scientific assessment, information dissemination, and education.

CNIE brought together a diverse constituency through education and outreach, to endorse the NIE concept, including:

  • 284 universities
  • 84 scientific professional societies and academies of science.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 35 other business groups and chambers of commerce.
  • 17 organizations representing state and local government, including the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
  • 50 national and regional environmental groups.
  • Three former administrators of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, all whom served as former EPA science directors prior to 1993.

In 1997, CNIE persuaded Congress to direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the creation of an NIE. Accordingly, the National Science Board (NSB), NSF’s governing body, created a Task Force on the Environment. The Task Force's interim report, Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century: The Role of the National Science Foundation, which was approved on July 28, 1999, by the NSB, recommended a bold initiative with a funding target of an additional $1 billion/year to implement nearly all of the activities proposed for the original NIE. On October 27, 1999, CNIE publicly declared its endorsement of the NSB report in a statement to its supporters that declared:

The CNIE strongly supported full funding and effective implementation of all of the NSB's recommendations in an integrated fashion. Furthermore, the CNIE suspended the call for the creation of a National Institute for the Environment to work in support of the NSF initiative.

This endorsement altered CNIE’s mission to simply "improving the scientific basis of environmental decision-making." On January 27, 2000, CNIE also changed its name to the National Council for Science and the Environment to better reflect this mission and adopted a new strategic plan to implement those NIE-related activities, which the National Science Foundation could not.

Since 2000, the National Council for Science and the Environment has expanded rapidly and continues to evolve and diversify its various strategies and programs. Learn more about NCSE's history in service to science and the environment.


​The new NCSE logo seeks to better reflect our nearly 30 years of work and the critical new initiatives we will be embarking on in the future. The blue orb in the logo symbolizes our common planet, the subject of our environmental mission. The nodes and connections within represent our diverse membership and community, and the collaborative nature of our work and leadership. The logo was designed by Rob Vance and Sumedha Rao.